The Evolution Of The Small Business Owner

Image: The Evolution Of The Small Business Owner

Since the origins of trade and commerce, small businesses have been the backbone of enterprise and expansion. From the first trader to the contemporary social entrepreneur, this is the evolution of the small business owner.

Early entrepreneur

The earliest small business owners came in the form of traders and farmers. For the first time, our Homosapien ancestors turned from hunting and gathering and saw animal and plant cultivation as a form of trade enterprise.

Roman Merchant

Small business owners again built their enterprise around their trade or craft. A classic representation of this is found in early Rome where the economy was based on small holdings and paid labor. Collective markets were set up for shops keepers and merchants - the most famous being the Forum Magnum.

Middle Ages To Modern Period

From the fall of the Roman Empire to the rise of Europe, the role of small business owners changed very little. Small business owners were still local artisans and merchants whose roles in their communities were clearly defined by their trade. Some merchants ventured from town to town as mobile merchants. Expansion in business only begins to increase during the rise of the Renaissance when trade between nations increased and flourished.

The Trader

A small sect of small business owners took to the trade routes to make their money. Technological advances in transportation and nautical navigation allowed for new areas of trade and enterprise to open.

The Shopkeeper

Artisans, shopkeeper and merchants comprised a majority of the small business owners in Colonial America. Many owners became quite wealthy providing goods to the agricultural population and by becoming involved in Trans-Atlantic trade routes.

Early 1800s

Businesses had no choice but to be small in Amercia's early days. Modes of transportation were equal parts slow and inefficient therefore leaving markets too fragmented to be able to support the needs of large scale businesses. Banks and financial institutions were also not yet fully developed, rendering them unable to support big businesses.

The Franchiser

A move that has shaped small businesses for generations has been the evolution of merchant to the franchiser. In the 1840s, German ale brewers gave particular tavern license to market their ale. This was the beginning of the modern franchises we know today.


In the 1800s, the small business owner had a new form of competition. It did not come from the store next door but from large companies that began to spring up thanks to the advances in technology and transportations . Many small business owners had to 'modernize' in order to compete. This meant the inclusion of machinery and telephones.

The War Worker

With America entering World War 11, many small business owners also needed to change. With supplies limited due to rations, many smaller industrial businesses tried to compete for defense contracts. This lead to the beginnings of the small Defense Plants Administration whose function was to oversee and protect small businesses.

Fast Fooder

With America now recovered from the war, it reaped the fruits of a booming economy. Thus many jumped head first into the development of their small businesses in hopes of expanding across the U.S. In the 1950s, the McDonald brothers incorporated their father's small hamburger business and a man named Ray Kroc began to franchise. For many small business owners, this was an ominous sign of things to come.

Late 1980s

Big business certainly began to gain the upper band in the late1980s and 1990s. Small business killers such as Walmart and Target spread from coast to coast.

Internet Entrepreneur

Small businesses were reborn again in the form of the internet small business owner. Many internet startups sprang to life with the advent of the internet. For the first time, interactions with customers and clients around the world was not only easy but cost efficient.

The Startup Techie

The expansion of the internet altered many everyday activities, from shopping to social interaction. This represented a perfect launching pad for small technology-driven businesses. More and more, small tech startups have entered this virtual economy without having to incur the cost of a formal brick and mortar location.

The Future Of Small Businesses

"With e-commerce expanding to include almost all avenues of goods and services, small business will delve further into the virtual world to reach new customers and clients. However, one fact remains constant throughout the history of small business they are durable."

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